June 18, 2024


I Fall For Art

An Extraordinary Experience That Eased the Burden of Grief

For over 25 years I have been studying the effects of the Extraordinary Experiences (EEs) of the bereaved. These events are spontaneous, not invoked, and those who experience them are convinced they come from an outside source–their deceased loved one or a Supreme Being.

There are numerous positive effects from these encounters, not the least of which is the conviction by the mourner that consciousness survives bodily death and the loved one lives on. Following is an unusual EE that had three positive effects on the recipient in addition to the two just mentioned.

The recipient of this experience was a devoted wife and helped her husband through many months of coping with prostate cancer. As she said, “Being present when he was dying was an incredibly profound experience that changed my life. However, I knew his time was very short, and he would not die in my presence, as he wanted to spare me the sadness. He passed away shortly after I went home that last night.”

In her own words, here is her Extraordinary Experience.

“My EE occurred approximately 30 hours after Peter’s death. I awakened around 7:00
a.m. and saw my ‘Happy Birthday’ balloon in my bedroom. He had ordered flowers
and the balloon for my birthday two weeks earlier. He hadn’t gotten me a balloon for
years but this one turned out to be significant. During the four days he’d been in home
hospice care, it hovered around the ceiling in the room where we spent our time talking
and watching television (‘hanging out’ he called it). This balloon had never left that
room before, and would have had to go up and down through two doorways to get to
the bedroom–so I knew it had to happen on its own.

When I saw the balloon that morning, I immediately knew it was a message from him that he had arrived at his destination, and wanted to thank me for taking care of him. I went down a short hallway to our front door to get the newspaper, and when I came back the balloon was in his bathroom. He had told me earlier that since his shower was better than mine, I should use his bathroom after he was gone. I felt the balloon was reminding me of that, so I took my shower there immediately.

The remainder of the morning the balloon would be in whatever room I was in, although I never really saw it move. I would just look up and see it with me. This lasted for a few hours, then it was over. The balloon lost all its air and to this day rests on a shelf by a jade plant in my sunroom. I felt this episode was a moment of magic and joy in the midst of my new and overwhelming sadness.”

This experience was a major factor in how Marilyn was able to cope with her great loss. I asked her what was most helpful about it for her. She said, “The timing of the experience set the tone for my grieving process: Happy images (balloon, etc.) immediately linked to the sad ones (Peter’s dying moments). Also, the encounter reassured me that his suffering was over. Finally, the details of this EE seemed designed by Peter to be a very personal and unique message for me.”

These three items are critical to understand. Setting the tone for grieving means knowing that all is well, though sad, and all is not lost. Reassurance is an important factor in accepting her loss (a major task of mourning) knowing that his pain is over. And finally, realizing the personal meaning of the message adds to reassurance and her belief that love lives on.

Experiences like Marilyn’s have happened to millions of people in a variety of different ways from sensing the presence of the deceased or having a vision to hearing the loved one’s voice or experiencing a visitation dream. The general public is not aware of the frequency of these contacts or the degree of help they provide to the bereaved. They remain another example of the mystery of life.